Woman found dead at Baldwin Park motel identified; cause of death remains a mystery


BALDWIN PARK >> Authorities have identified a 19-year-old woman found dead inside a Baldwin Park motel on Friday, though her cause of death remained under investigation, authorities said.
Nancy Ester Mederos Gudino of Baldwin Park was pronounced dead shortly after 11:15 a.m. at a motel in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
It was not immediately clear how she died, but investigators noted signs of trauma to her upper torso, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
An autopsy was yet to be completed, according to Molano.
A man was detained at the scene for questioning, officials said. But it was not clear Sunday whether officials had arrested the man or set him free.
No further details were available.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting Baldwin Park police in the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Gunman in skeleton mask robs Monrovia motel


MONROVIA >> A gunman wearing a skeleton mask robbed a Monrovia motel late Thursday, police said.
The crime unfolded just after 9 p.m. at the Oak Tree Inn, 788 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia police Lt. Robert Wilken said.
The robber entered the lobby of the hotel, brandished a pistol and demanded money from an employee, the lieutenant said.
He fled with several hundred dollars and was last seen getting into a light-colored sedan parked in front of the motel, which sped away noth on Encino Avenue toward Huntington Drive.
Police described the robber as a black man between 35 and 40 years old, about 6 feet 3 inches tall, 250 pounds, wearing a skeleton mask.
No injuries were reported.
Anyone with information can reach Monrovia police at 626-256-8000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Detectives investigate woman’s death at West Whittier motel


WEST WHITTIER >> Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a woman whose body as discovered at a West Whittier motel Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The death was first reported just after 12:20 p.m. at a motel in the 11100 block of Whittier Boulevard, in the unincorporated county area of West Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The person, described only as a woman, was pronounced dead at the scene, deputies from the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“The female adult was found unresponsive in her motel room by an employee and pronounce dead at the scene,” according to Deputy Trina Schrader.
“There were no obvious signs of foul play,” Schrader said. “The cause of death and identification will be determined by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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West Covina man convicted of murdering transgender woman at Baldwin Park motel

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BALDWIN PARK >> A jury Friday convicted a West Covina man of the murder of a 26-year-old transgender woman who was ound beaten to death in a Baldwin Park motel in 2013.
A Pomona Superior Court Jury found Stephen Gonzales, 30, guilty of the first-degree murder of the victim known to loved ones as Melony Smith. She was listed by coroner’s officials under birth name, Vanhxay Inthichack.
Smith’s body was found about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2013, inside her room at a motel in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
The jury found Gonzales not guilty of robbing Smith, though they did convict Gonzales of the lesser offense of petty theft, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The jury also did not find true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of robbery, which would have made Gonzales eligible for capital punishment.
Despite the jury’s decision not to convict Gonzales of robbery, prosecutors believe that was motive in the killing, Ardalani said.
“Our office believes Gonzales wanted to rob the victim of her property,” Ardalani said.
Leticia Alvarado, who worked at the motel where Smith was staying on-and-off for about a year, said she became close friends with the “funny and outgoing” Smith, who she called, “sister.”
Smith, who moved away from home at age 16 because her family disapproved of her lifestyle, graduated Sierra Vista High School and worked for security company, Alvarado said shortly after the slaying.
Another friend of Smith’s, Misty Vale, said her friend had been saving up money to buy a car and planned to return to school to become a dental hygienist.
Gonzales faces a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Feb. 11, Ardalani said.

PHOTO: Melony Smith, 26. (Courtesy)

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